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The relentless march of Linux

Let me preface this by saying that I am no Linux fan - I have a been an anti-GPL'er (or rather "anti-[pro-GPL FUD]er") for years now, and have been "ostrcized" as a "Microsoft astroturfer" on Slashdot countless times. Having said that, last night I thought I'd give Linux-on-the-desktop yet another try, after quite a few miserable discovers that it really wasn't there yet. As a rather random choice I picked Mandrake 9.2, booted up a VMWare session and installed it.

I have to confess that I am very impressed.

Installation - Absolutely trivial. As easy as any Windows installation. There was one minor quirk relating to the virtual VMWare network device that required a config file change to get it working, but otherwise it was absolutely painless. Installation sets are via master categories like "Office Worker", "Development", etc (although the master package list is still available), eliminating the classic issue of a monster list of countless vaguely described, and inter-dependant, packages. Very slick.

First impressions - Graphically this is quite astounding (I'm using the KDE desktop) - clearly they've got some graphic artists onboard as visually this is extremely attractive - it feels modern. In there is a great little IM (Gaim), a good browser (Konquerer, although I immediately installed Mozilla [with the Orbit 3+1 theme it is fantastic])

In a few short hours I have an incredibly feature rich "server" running Postgresql, cvs, among a slew of other apps.

While I am quite late to the Linux party (and I don't plan on making it my party of choice at this point), the folks at Redmond have to be getting a little worried -- this really is an extraordinary set of software for free (or even at a professional price) -- As thin clients or "internet computers" this is absolutely brilliant (Mozilla is a stunning browser), and overcomes much of the "you must spend X hours screwing around before doing anything useful" of years past. For office work it isn't quite there yet, yet the utilities continue to make strides. Here's the most fascinating thing, though - Now that the xbox (along with its competitors) is supplanting PCs as gaming platforms in many homes, Office is now going to offer an "open" data format that will likely be picked up by a number of Linux applications (even if it means breaking Microsoft copyrights), and the Internet is coming to fruition as an application platform, the barriers to making the switch are dissolving.

Microsoft had better have something pretty sweet up their sleeves - if .NET is it then they're in for trouble (Java, along with many other technologies, taught us that consumers don't give the slightest ounce of consideration to the technology that underlies an application/solution - they rate the application on its own merits).

Just some meanderings after being quite impressed with how far this Linux "fad" (to be honest I was sure that the "kids" would have moved onto some new technology of desire -- BeOS seemed like a shoe-in).

Dennis Forbes
Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Dear Dennis,
                  Mandarake has been a very easy install for a long time, and it's getting easier. I've been saying for a long time that installing Linux and apps is actually a lot quicker and easier than installing Windows and apps, but it's nice to see some back up.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Linux has a long way to go before it gets anywhere near grandma-status. However, I'm writing this now on Linux.

I'm not going to stay here and preach OSS, you can go to Slashdot if that's what you want. But, I do think it worth mentioning that Linux and KDE have both improved at an absolutely astounding rate. And if some bit isn't there yet (hmm... there may be a few still, heh), the community has shown that it can get there.

Whether it will or not, this is another story. But I'll put a dollar on Linux. I think we'll be surprised by how far it will go. Whether we're happy with what we get, well that'll be an interesting future.

Mike Swieton
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

That's good news for Microsoft Windows users.

Microsoft software quality is directly proportional to competition.

MS Publisher 2000 is actually quite a good program. That's because they're working hard to compete with Pagemaker et. al.

Entrepreneur
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

just as well :) we are going to need a few alternatives to the digital restrictions management software MS will be bringing out with palladium...

so now we have apple, Linux and various other *nix alternatives.

its a kind of shame as well though, Ive been very much enjoying the use of XP over the last few weeks Ive been using it a lot....it _is_ a pretty sweet operating system now.

I guess the point is that MS cannot reasonably be expected to retain its place as 'only kid on the block' forever.

FullNameRequired
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

I actually think it's a bit funny that you had to make a config file change to get Linux to install on virtualized hardware, which by definition looks the same to all software.  Does that really speak well for Linux?

FYI, the only place I install Linux nowadays is inside a virtual machine.

Richard Kuo
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

I use Windows at work, and both Windows & Linux at home.  To my mind, what is best depends very much on skillset and usage.  Unfortunately this does tend to be lost when speaking about Operating Systems. 

The quality of debate isn't high and I think this has a lot to do with ignorance.  I've seen discussions where both sides rehash arguments that were addressed years previously or express profound shock that innovations in one system are ignored by the other.

I'd say, if you have a chance, give every system a try - especially the odd ones. 

A cynic writes
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Ive ben using linux on servers for some time, as well as the occational desktop installation. To my mind, linuxs big problem still remains before widespread adoption is possible.
Libs, packages and dependancies makes upgrading 'hard'.

After having a desktop running for six months or so doing occational updates to the RPMs you are bound to suddenly have something of a mess on your hands and you have to go in and replace libs manually to fix dependencies.

Sure, I can do it, no prob, but my mom prolly wouldnt even understand the theory.

Eric DeBois
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

I had a very similar experience with Mandrake when I tried 8.2 a while back -- very amazed at the wealth of stuff that came with it and ease of installation.

Of course, I'm also constantly amazed with each new release of OS X. At the same time, I'll be very quick to admit that 10.2 was the first semi-usable version, and 10.3 is really what people should consider the base for OS X (especially with the practical elimination of the spinning wait cursor, and the fixes to windows file-sharing).

It's always nice to see what else is available besides Windows, but unfortunately, I find it hard to justify spending any real amount of time unless they'll help me with my current work, or in gaining new work. In my case, Linux is neat, but I don't work in areas where it's really used.

jedidjab79
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

This "grandma-ready" bullshit has to go.  No OS is "grandma-ready".  My elderly father has trouble running windows all the time.  I have 50+ year old relatives always asking me computer questions.

I'm not saying linux is better, all I'm saying is that windows is NOT Grandma-ready.


Wednesday, November 26, 2003

I like Linux and I look forward to the day that I can ditch my windows machine.  There are still a few problems.  The biggest is installing new applications, not all of them, mind you.  It's just sometimes a pain.  The example that comes to mind- I have RedHat 9 installed and the fonts on Mozilla look great (finally).  I download Opera and install and the fonts are the same old crap.  I know this must be easy to fix for a Linux expert (or sub-expert) but for the average user who just wants to do some stuff on his machine and isn't that interested in the OS, this is a huge pain in the ass.

As for the corporate world, the only thing really holding back some companies is an existing investment in vertical apps unavailable for linux and existing VB crap running on Office.  As soon as some big company realizes that most of their workers can get by with OpenOffice as long as they keep a few Windows machines around, that's it.  Either everyone switched to Linux or, more likely, Microsoft lowers the price of Windows.

Name withheld out of cowardice
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

(noname): This "grandma-ready" bullshit has to go.  No OS is "grandma-ready". 

Word. Who first advanced this dumb argument anyway? One of the trade rag experts? Why do we keep repeating it as if it means something?

Chris Winters
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

"or, more likely, Microsoft lowers the price of Windows"

cowardice, you're reading the future.

Guillermo
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Microsoft is not so stupid that they would try to compete apples to apples against no cost software. I can't see them lowering the price of Windows.

I see them adding as much stuff to the OS as possible to differentiate Windows from the commodity unixes.

That's one of the things that I think Longhorn is really all about.

pdq
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

I'd add that the relentless march is *in spite of* the complexity of the OS, and its developer-based orientation,
so I think the "Not packaged as well as Windows, therefore will fail" criticisms are not addressing the essential factors that are driving Linux.

Portabella
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Neither Linux nor Windows is grandma-ready, but I think Linux can be more easily locked-down and made grandma-ready.

My friend setup a basic Mandrake/KDE machine for his mom. He simplified the menus and gave her a non-root user account. She has had NO problems. She only needs email, web, and basic word processing. She never installs new hardware or plays games.

On the other hand, I regrettably setup a Windows XP machine for my parents. They too only need email, web, and basic word processing. Unfortunately, they have had endless problems and I am stuck doing long-distance tech support.

Their internet randomly auto-dials when they turn on the computer. But when online, the internet will often hang up. Their email silently stopped working because the "complimently" anti-virus email scanner expired after 30 days, causing ALL email to halt. Then they got infected by the Blaster worm and numerous email viruses.

I think the moral of the story is: Linux might not be grandma-ready, but Windows is DEFINITELY not grandma-ready!

runtime
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

"On the other hand, I regrettably setup a Windows XP machine for my parents. They too only need email, web, and basic word processing. Unfortunately, they have had endless problems and I am stuck doing long-distance tech support."

I feel your pain.  Just wait - soon, they will start forwarding you every "virus warning" and urban legend email they get.  Nothing you say will make them stop.  Eventually, you will create a TXT file full of boilerplate info about virus hoaxes and urban legends, and each time they do this, you will send your boilerplate via "Reply to All" to everyone they know.  They still won't stop.  Next, you will beg them to please God just stop.  They still won't stop.

Finally, you will put them on your kill list.

Grumpy Old-Timer
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Grumpy Old-timer, is a kill list a feature of Microsoft Outlook or something you keep locked up with your ammo? ;-)

runtime
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

<nil> writes: " I have 50+ year old relatives always asking me computer questions."

I resemble that remark.  The "50+" part that is.  I doubt that we are very closely related and I don't expect to ask you any computer questions.  But then, I am not anyone's "grandma".  Why are we using "grandma-ready" as a test of OS usability?  Do your brains get flushed out when you become a grandmother?

My 80+ year old father seems to be able to use Windows OK, but all he needs is email, some accounting stuff, and AutoCAD.

I use both Windows and Linux, but find Linux easier.  That's probably due to all the years using Unix.

mackinac
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

>"I can't see them lowering the price of Windows."

They have been lowering the price of Windows for foreign governments that are seriously considering Linux.

T. Norman
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Remember, if you want to try out linux but don't want to go through the hassle of installing anything, just try the Knoppix live cd!  http://www.knoppix.net

saberworks
Thursday, November 27, 2003

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